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The objectives of this study were to develop and refine EMPOWER (Enhancing and Mobilizing the POtential for Wellness and Resilience), a brief manualized cognitive-behavioral, acceptance-based intervention for surrogate decision-makers of critically ill patients and to evaluate its preliminary feasibility, acceptability, and promise in improving surrogates’ mental health and patient outcomes.
Part 1 involved obtaining qualitative stakeholder feedback from 5 bereaved surrogates and 10 critical care and mental health clinicians. Stakeholders were provided with the manual and prompted for feedback on its content, format, and language. Feedback was organized and incorporated into the manual, which was then re-circulated until consensus. In Part 2, surrogates of critically ill patients admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) reporting moderate anxiety or close attachment were enrolled in an open trial of EMPOWER. Surrogates completed six, 15–20 min modules, totaling 1.5–2 h. Surrogates were administered measures of peritraumatic distress, experiential avoidance, prolonged grief, distress tolerance, anxiety, and depression at pre-intervention, post-intervention, and at 1-month and 3-month follow-up assessments.
Part 1 resulted in changes to the EMPOWER manual, including reducing jargon, improving navigability, making EMPOWER applicable for a range of illness scenarios, rearranging the modules, and adding further instructions and psychoeducation. Part 2 findings suggested that EMPOWER is feasible, with 100% of participants completing all modules. The acceptability of EMPOWER appeared strong, with high ratings of effectiveness and helpfulness (M = 8/10). Results showed immediate post-intervention improvements in anxiety (d = −0.41), peritraumatic distress (d = −0.24), and experiential avoidance (d = −0.23). At the 3-month follow-up assessments, surrogates exhibited improvements in prolonged grief symptoms (d = −0.94), depression (d = −0.23), anxiety (d = −0.29), and experiential avoidance (d = −0.30).
Significance of results
Preliminary data suggest that EMPOWER is feasible, acceptable, and associated with notable improvements in psychological symptoms among surrogates. Future research should examine EMPOWER with a larger sample in a randomized controlled trial.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the validity and reliability of the Japanese version of the Peace, Equanimity, and Acceptance in the Cancer Experience questionnaire (PEACE-J) and to evaluate the association between the PEACE subscales and Japanese patient characteristics.
A cross-sectional web-based survey was conducted among 412 patients with cancer. This survey assessed medical and demographic factors, such as the PEACE, the Coping Inventory for Stressful Situations (CISS), and the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy — Spiritual well-being (FACIT-Sp). The forward–backward translation method was used to develop the PEACE-J. The validity of PEACE-J was evaluated by exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, and correlation analysis between each subscale of PEACE and FACIT-Sp and CISS. The Cronbach's α and the item-total correlation of each subscale of the PEACE questionnaire were calculated to assess internal consistency reliability.
The factor analysis yielded two subscales corresponding to the original version: Cronbach's α coefficients were 0.84 and 0.86 for the Peaceful Acceptance of Illness subscale and the Struggle with Illness subscale, respectively. The PEACE subscales and the FACIT-Sp subscales and the CISS subscales were moderately associated with each other, including the Peaceful Acceptance to each subscale of FACIT (r = 0.22–0.55, p < 0.01); and the Peaceful Acceptance and the Struggle with Illness to CISS emotion-oriented coping (r = −0.36 and r = 0.45, p < 0.01, respectively). Married patients showed higher levels of peaceful acceptance than unmarried patients (p < 0.001). Poorer performance status, chemotherapy use, and recurrence or metastasis were significantly associated with higher levels of struggle with illness (p < 0.001).
Significance of results
This study indicated that the PEACE-J is a valid and reliable measure of the patient's sense of acceptance, calmness or equanimity, and peace, as well as their sense of struggle or desperation concerning their illness.
Anxiety is common in older adults with cancer (OACs) and their caregivers and is associated with poor outcomes including worse physical symptoms, poor treatment adherence and response, and longer hospitalizations. This study examined the feasibility, acceptability, adherence, and preliminary efficacy of a cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention for OACs and their caregivers.
Patients with active cancer age 65 years and older and their caregivers were randomized to Managing Anxiety from Cancer (MAC), a seven-session CBT-based psychotherapy intervention delivered over the telephone or usual care. Patients and caregivers completed the intervention separately with licensed social workers. Self-report measures of anxiety, depression, and quality of life were administered after randomization and following intervention completion. Analyses were conducted separately for patients and caregivers and at the dyad level. Hierarchical Linear Modeling accounted for the within-dyad intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) by random intercepts associated with the dyads.
Twenty-nine dyads were randomized; 28 (96.6%) patients and 26 (89.7%) caregivers completed all study procedures. Of dyads randomized to MAC, 85.7% (n = 12) of patients and caregivers completed all seven sessions. Most patients (≥50%) and over 80% of caregivers rated the overall intervention and intervention components as “moderately” to “very” helpful. MAC was associated with a greater reduction in anxiety among dyads than usual care, the effect of MAC was greater in caregivers than in patients, and improvement in patient anxiety was associated with the reduction in caregiver anxiety. However, these results did not reach statistical significance.
Significance of results
This pilot study demonstrates the feasibility of MAC and suggests strategies for improving acceptability, with a focus on adherence. Furthermore, these results indicate that MAC is promising for the reduction of anxiety in OAC–caregiver dyads and may be particularly beneficial for OAC caregivers. Larger randomized controlled trials are needed to evaluate the efficacy of MAC.
Latino-advanced cancer patients engage in advance care planning (ACP) at lower rates than non-Latino patients. The goal of the present study was to understand patients' and caregivers' preferred methods of communicating about ACP.
Patients and caregivers were interviewed about cultural, religious, and familial beliefs that influence engagement in ACP and preferences for ACP communication.
Findings highlighted that Latino patients respect doctors' medical advice, prefer the involvement of family members in ACP discussions with doctors, hold optimistic religious beliefs (e.g., belief in miracles) that hinder ACP discussions, and prefer culturally competent approaches, such as using their native language, for learning how to discuss end-of-life (EoL) care preferences.
Significance of results
Key cultural, religious, and familial beliefs and dynamics influence Latino engagement in ACP. Patients prefer a family-centered, physician informed approach to discussing ACP with consideration and incorporation of their religious medical beliefs about EoL care. Promising targets for improving the communication of and engagement in ACP include integrating cultural and religious beliefs in ACP discussions, providing information about ACP from the physician, involving family members in ACP discussions and decision-making, and giving instructions on how to engage in ACP discussions.
To determine the preliminary feasibility, acceptability, and effects of Meaning-Centered Grief Therapy (MCGT) for parents who lost a child to cancer.
Parents who lost a child to cancer and who were between six months and six years after loss and reporting elevated levels of prolonged grief were enrolled in open trials of MCGT, a manualized, one-on-one cognitive-behavioral-existential intervention that used psychoeducation, experiential exercises, and structured discussion to explore themes related to meaning, identity, purpose, and legacy. Parents completed 16 weekly sessions, 60–90 minutes in length, either in person or through videoconferencing. Parents were administered measures of prolonged grief disorder symptoms, meaning in life, and other assessments of psychological adjustment preintervention, mid-intervention, postintervention, and at three months postintervention. Descriptive data from both the in-person and videoconferencing open trial were pooled.
Eight of 11 (72%) enrolled parents started the MCGT intervention, and six of eight (75%) participants completed all 16 sessions. Participants provided positive feedback about MCGT. Results showed postintervention longitudinal improvements in prolonged grief (d = 1.70), sense of meaning (d = 2.11), depression (d = 0.84), hopelessness (d = 1.01), continuing bonds with their child (d = 1.26), posttraumatic growth (ds = 0.29–1.33), positive affect (d = 0.99), and various health-related quality of life domains (d = 0.46–0.71). Most treatment gains were either maintained or increased at the three-month follow-up assessment.
Significance of results
Overall, preliminary data suggest that this 16-session, manualized cognitive-behavioral-existential intervention is feasible, acceptable, and associated with transdiagnostic improvements in psychological functioning among parents who have lost a child to cancer. Future research should examine MCGT with a larger sample in a randomized controlled trial.
Identifying characteristics of individuals at greatest risk for prolonged grief disorder (PGD) can improve its detection and elucidate the etiology of the disorder. The Safe Passage Study, a study of women at high risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), prospectively examined the psychosocial functioning of women while monitoring their healthy pregnancies. Mothers whose infants died of SIDS were followed in bereavement.
Pre-loss data were collected from 12 000 pregnant mothers and analyzed for their associations with grief symptoms and PGD in 50 mothers whose infants died from SIDS, from 2 to 48 months after their infant's death, focusing on pre-loss risk factors of anxiety, depression, alcohol use, maternal age, the presence of other living children in the home, and previous child loss.
The presence of any four risk factors significantly predicted PGD for 24 months post-loss (p < 0.003); 2–3 risk factors predicted PGD for 12 months (p = 0.02). PGD rates increased in the second post-loss year, converging in all groups to approximately 40% by 3 years. Pre-loss depressive symptoms were significantly associated with PGD. Higher alcohol intake and older maternal age were consistently positively associated with PGD. Predicted risk scores showed good discrimination between PGD and no PGD 6–24 months after loss (C-statistic = 0.83).
A combination of personal risk factors predicted PGD in 2 years of bereavement. There is a convergence of risk groups to high rates at 2–3 years, marked by increased PGD rates in mothers at low risk. The risk factors showed different effects on PGD.
The DSM and ICD have taken steps to introduce a grief disorder as a new diagnostic entity. Evidence justifies the inclusion of prolonged grief disorder, but not complicated grief, as a new mental disorder.
Following the loss of a loved one to cancer, a significant subset of bereaved family members are at heightened risk for mental and physical health problems; however, these family members often “fall through the cracks” of the healthcare system. A brief, clinically useful self-report bereavement risk-screening tool could facilitate more effective identification of family members in need of psychosocial support before and after a cancer loss. Thus, the purpose of this study was to develop and refine the Bereavement Risk Inventory and Screening Questionnaire (BRISQ), a self-report bereavement screening tool, and to assess its utility using feedback from bereavement experts.
Quantitative and qualitative feedback from a panel of 15 clinical and research experts in bereavement was obtained through an online survey to identify the most clinically useful items and understand expert opinion on bereavement screening.
The qualitative and quantitative feedback were synthesized, resulting in a 22% reduction of the item pool. While there was a general consensus between experts on the most clinically useful risk factors for bereavement-related mental health challenges and on the utility of screening, they also offered feedback on language and formatting that guided substantial revisions to the BRISQ.
Significance of results:
These findings were utilized to refine the BRISQ in preparation for a second study to obtain family member feedback on the measure. By incorporating both expert and family member feedback, the intention is to create a screening tool that represents top clinical and research knowledge in bereavement in a way that effectively addresses barriers to care.
Reflections on results of a recent study suggest that stages of grief might more accurately be described as states of grief. Resolution of grief coincides with increasing acceptance of loss. Research indicating how grief resolution promotes acceptance may prove clinically useful in easing emotional pain associated with loss.
Self-efficacy, a characteristic that is protective against depressive symptoms, may be undermined by stressful life events.
To estimate the effects of stressful life events on self-efficacy, and to examine self-efficacy as a mediator of the effect of stressful life events on symptoms of depression.
Using a sample of 2858 respondents from the longitudinal Americans' Changing Lives study, path analyses were used to evaluate interrelationships between self-efficacy, life events and symptoms of depression controlling for a variety of potentially confounding variables. Separate models were estimated for those with and without prior depression.
For those with prior depression, dependent life events had a significant, negative impact on self-efficacy. For those without prior depression, life events had no effect on self-efficacy.
For those with prior depression, self-efficacy mediates approximately 40% of the effect of dependent stressful life events on symptoms of depression.
Studies suggest that symptoms of traumatic grief constitute a distinct syndrome worthy of diagnosis.
A consensus conference aimed to develop and test a criteria set for traumatic grief.
The expert panel proposed consensus criteria for traumatic grief. Receiver operator characteristic (ROC) analyses tested the performance of the proposed criteria on 306 widowed respondents at seven months post-loss.
ROC analyses indicated that three of four separation distress symptoms (e.g. yearning, searching, loneliness) had to be endorsed as at least ‘sometimes true’ and four of the final eight traumatic distress symptoms (e.g. numbness, disbelief, distrust, anger, sense of futility about the future) had to be endorsed as at least ‘mostly true’ to yield a sensitivity of 0.93 and a specificity of 0.93 for a diagnosis of traumatic grief.
Preliminary analyses suggest the consensus criteria for traumatic grief have satisfactory operating characteristics, and point to directions for further refinement of the criteria set.
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